NEWS that a massive new tuna cannery will soon open in Papua New Guinea is compelling evidence that the Coral Sea should not be locked up as a marine reserve, Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said today.
The National newspaper reported on Monday that Majestic Seafoods will open its new cannery, near Lae in Eastern PNG, in the next two months. Majestic is made up of three major Filipino and Thai-owned companies, and once fully operational will employ 6000 workers and process 380 metric tons of tuna per day.
“It beggars belief that Majestic can massively expand their activities at the same time as our Government is looking to close down the already highly-regulated Coral Sea fishery,” Mr Entsch said.
“PNG currently catches more than one million tons of tuna a year, and the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia take around 1.3 million tons from the vastness of the Coral Sea. Our take last year from our portion of the Coral Sea due to regulation and forced closures was 300 tons, which cost our sole commercial operator in Cairns $140,000 in licensing fees.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous these huge schools of tuna travel from Australian waters into the PNG section, where they will then be caught and processed for export to the European Union, USA, Middle East and Japan.
“Majestic Seafoods and the PNG government are rightly touting the economic potential of this new venture both in terms of local jobs and the spin-off businesses that will emerge. But wouldn’t some of those 6000 jobs and associated investment be fantastic for North Queensland?”
The news comes as thousands of signatures on the ‘Don’t Lock Us Out’ petition are being collated and counted in Canberra, prior to being presented to the Petitions Committee next Wednesday.
Mr Entsch said he had been “blown away” by the response, with almost 5500 signatures collected in just two and a half weeks from around North Queensland calling for the government to halt the marine park process.
“This clearly shows the extremely high value that people place on having a local fishing industry, being able to buy fresh, Australian seafood, as well as the flow-on benefits for a huge range of local businesses,” he said.
Mr Entsch paid credit to people around the Leichhardt electorate from Cairns to Cooktown and the Torres Strait – who had gone “above and beyond” to rally support for the petition.
Barron River MP Michael Trout, Warren and Mitchell’s Marine owner Wayne Bayne launched the petition in Cairns in late July
“We were overwhelmed by the number of people who requested extra copies of the petition, from seafood outlets, charter operators, local businesses and maritime organisations,” Mr Entsch said.
“I would like to make special mention of the Port Douglas Waterfront Protection Association they spent hours at boat ramps, the Port Douglas markets and outside local supermarkets with the result that they gathered 1500 signatures from a town of just 4000 people.
“I look forward to finding out the final tally next week.”
Petitions can still be sent to Mr Entsch’s office in Canberra prior to final collation on Monday, please post to;
The Office of the Hon Warren Entsch MP
House of Representatives